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NFL’s already confusing helmet rule becomes even more befuddling

The NFL is trying to make the game safer, and the transition has been nothing more than confusing.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is in quite a conundrum when it comes to the safety of the game, and how it is played. With CTE reports running rampant from former players, and with players being bigger, faster and stronger than ever before — they had to do something.

With that said, the NFL released a new rule regarding how players will not be permitted to target the head/neck area of an opponent, nor will they be able to lead with their heads at anytime.

When this news was released to the public, many players, like Steelers offensive linemen David DeCastro and Alejandro Villanueva wondered what this would mean for offensive linemen who make helmet-to-helmet contact with their counterpart on almost every play. DeCastro stated if the league were to get rid of ANY helmet-to-helmet contact, blocking will resemble sumo wrestling more than actual blocking.

The league has made a small clarification of the rule, in an attempt to make it easier to understand for both players and fans.

This per ProFootballTalk:

Here’s the full text of the new note: “This provision does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or the helmet in the course of a conventional tackle or block on an opponent.”

So the new formulation of this specific aspect of the unnecessary roughness rule has removed the prior requirement that the butting, spearing, or ramming be violent or unnecessary, but it has added a caveat that allows incidental helmet contact arising from “conventional” tackling or blocking. Which means that the unnecessary roughness rule for 2018 encompasses non-incidental and/or unconventional use of the helmet, without the lowering of the helmet or initiating contact with it — and without regard to whether the use of the helmet was violent or unnecessary.

While many fans might read this and say, “Finally, some clarification!” I read this and see another way out for the league. Other than a defensive back coming up and lower his head into another player’s head, or targeting the head/neck area intentionally, league officials now have a loophole to not throw the flag on these types of plays.

Will this happen? Will referees constantly lean on this “conventional block or tackle” verbiage, or will this be an honest attempt by the league to change the game?

It may seem like it is going to be good for the game, it indeed could be the complete opposite. This can lead to more confusion, more critical errors at critical times and an overall lack of consistency the league has been missing from its officiating crews over the past decade.

Guess we will all have to sit back and wait to see how this unfolds this year.